If you have an old set of collectible Collier Encyclopedias you might wonder if they have any value. After all, Collier's Encyclopedia has been a household name since it published the first set.
History of Collier's Encyclopedia
Collier's Encyclopedia was first published by Crowell, Collier and Macmillan in 1950. Originally it was 20 volumes and considered to be one of the top three major English language encyclopedias. The publishers described it as "a scholarly, systematic, continuously revised summary of the knowledge that is most significant to mankind". The encyclopedias handled practical subjects, like science, geography and biography very well. It tended to stay away from subject matter that would be considered controversial, making it one of the more conservative publications.
In 1962 the encyclopedia was expanded to 24 volumes. People craved knowledge in the decades after Word War II and there were many new discoveries, as well as changes in society. Families felt that by having a set of encyclopedias they, and their children, would be well prepared to face the future.
The encyclopedias were often sold door to door by salesmen. Door to door sales were a common practice until the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Collier's to stop what the FTC called unfair and deceptive trade practices. The complaints against the publisher went as far back as 1960.
The Value of Collectible Collier Encyclopedia
Old encyclopedias, from any publisher, tend to be just that, old. The information is out of date and there is really no market for them. You can stop in to almost any thrift shop or used bookstore and find sets of outdated encyclopedias gathering dust. Many Salvation Army thrift shops won't even accept them as donations. Collectors generally are not interested in encyclopedias published after about the 1880s.
As an investment or an antique, a collectible Collier Encyclopedia is really not very collectible. Generally you can find a set for less than ten dollars, or even free.
What to Do with Old Encyclopedias
This is not to say that they do not have merit. The encyclopedia entries are an excellent look into the middle decades of the 20th century. They are generally easy to read with good illustrations and especially suited for children. If you have children, the books can be a great tool to teach research skills.
You can donate them. Many prisons do not allow online access to prisoners, and homeless shelters often will be able to use them, outdated or not. Beyond that you can use them in various decorating and other projects around the house.
Here are some ideas:
- Make a bookshelf
- Use them to raise the height of a lamp or other object.
- Keep them on display in your shelves.
- Make an altered book purse from one of them.
- Use the pages as a base for homemade paper.
- Use the pages for decoupage or other art projects.
- Folk art can be an amazing use for old encyclopedias.
- Create a lamp.
Where to Find Vintage Encyclopedias
If you are looking for a set of old encyclopedias there are several ways that you can acquire a set of these books. Locally, the following places are a good starting point:
- Thrift shops
- Garage sales
- Library used book sales
- Used bookstores
- Neighbors, relatives, and friends
Online, there are also many websites that you might browse:
Having a set of collectible Collier Encyclopedias in your home is a good way to encourage learning. Pull one out on a rainy day, open it to a random page and just start reading. You may find that you become engrossed in information that you never knew existed. While these old books really have no monetary value, the amount of information that they hold is invaluable to those that enjoy reading their worn pages.